Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Review - POSSESSION by A S BYATT

I hadn't heard of this Booker Prize winner neither did I know that it had been made into a movie before I picked this up. It has been on my bedside pile for quite a long time now and I am trying to keep this manageable by regularly delving into this lot rather than going for the newer books that come in.

Set in 1986 in the London library a scholar Roland Mitchell who is studying the work of Randolph Henry Ash discovers two letters written to a woman who is not named. Mitchell despite believing himself to be a straight forward, decent man pockets the two letters because he knows he may be on the path of some hitherto undiscovered literary fact.

Going about it in a sort of detective fashion he discovers the letters are written to Christabel LaMotte The plot becomes thicker now. Ash is unhappily married. Christabel is involved in a lesbian relationship with Blanche but Christabel is bisexual. Mitchell realizes that there is definitely more to this relationship than just a couple of letters and seeks what would be for him literary stardom if he can unravel the mystery of this woman and her relationship to Ash.

At this stage add an unlikely romance between Maud who is the leading authority on Christabel LaMotte and Mitchell. Christabel is incidentally an ancestor of Maud as well. To further complicate matters Mitchell is in a dull, dying relationship with Val and their relationship goes plodding along only because neither of them is energetic enough to end it.

The tragic story of Christabel and Ash has many hidden undertones and it is not only Mitchell and Maud who are anxiously following the leads. There are heavyweights involved - those who have much more money and authority to throw around and at one stage it seems as if the original Mitchell and Maud are not going to have much luck. It all ends well enough though I think everyone would have guessed at its ending long before it actually surfaced.

I liked the book but like so many others found the inclusion of the poetry, the diaries and the letters tedious. I know it adds to the "flavour" of the writing as it were but I also found it slow going. The story in itself - a tragi-romance was delicately handled and the characters were very much alive, even the deadly dull ones were really dull!! The ones that were robust were robust enough for all. I must also add that lots of reviews also found the inclusion of the poetry absolutely marvellous.

My first read of this author and I will be certainly looking for other books as well.

13 comments:

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This is one of those books that I've owned for a while and have never read. I liked your review a lot.

Harvee said...

I think including poetry in a novel would make it even a better book, if the poems are good, of course! I must look up this book! Good review!

Marie said...

Ah...I love this book. Sorry it wasn't quite your cup of tea. THE VIRGIN IN THE GARDEN is another Byatt you might like, or try some of her short stories. She's an amazing short story writer!

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I have wanted to read this for a while. As it sounds like it has quite a slow pace, I will save it for when I have time to properly savour it.

Blodeuedd said...

I watched the movie, but I can't remember if I also read the book..

Stepping Out of the Page said...

Wonderful review! Very well written. It sounds like this is quite an enjoyable read. I will check it out sometime.

New to your blog :-)
Stephanie
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Jenny said...

This is one of the very, very few books in my life that I wish I hadn't reread. I LOOOOVED it the first time, but when I reread it subsequently I just didn't feel the same way about it. It bummed me out.

JoV said...

I'm not a poetry person too. Should I read the book, I'll skim through the poetry very quickly and read through the plot! Thanks for the review.

Lisa said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed this one so much. It's one that I've had a long time as well and hope to get to soon. It's so easy to be distracted by the newer books that come in, isn't it?

DCMetroreader said...

I've always meant to read this -- thanks for reminding me to do so (someday LOL).

Cat said...

I bought Possession at a book fair last year but still haven't got to it. Thanks for the great review which has given me a nudge towards it.

Bookworm1858 said...

I tried reading this a couple of years ago and was slowed by the inclusion of the poetry. I hope to go back to it some day because I think it would be really good.

stacybuckeye said...

I haven't read Byatt yet, but I did enjoy this movie.